Union leader threatens strikes over civil service back-to-work plan

Union leader threatens strike action over Government plans to get four-in-five civil servants back to work by the end of September

  • Mark Serwotka lashed out at plans to get 80 per cent of mandarins back to desks
  • Public and Commercial Services union boss addressed online TUC Congress 
  • Ministers want civil servants to lead return to offices to boost Covid economy

A union leader threatened strike action today over plans to get the vast majority of civil servants working in their offices by the end of the month.

Firebrand leftwinger Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services union, lashed out at plans to get 80 per cent of mandarins back at their desks within weeks.

Addressing the TUC Congress today he said the safety of workers was being put at risk because of the ‘irresponsibility’ of the Government.

Ministers want civil servants to lead the way in returning to offices to help city and town centres struggling while millions work from home. 

But Mr Serwotka told the virtual event today: ‘We are prepared to take action to keep people safe.’

Firebrand leftwinger Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services union, lashed out at plans to get 80 per cent of mandarins back at their desks within weeks

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady urged the Chancellor not to cut off support for jobs as the furlough scheme ends, otherwise she said there could be mass redundancies

Civil servants have been accused of making a ‘mockery’ of Boris Johnson’s push to get staff back into the office by advertising ‘work from home only’ jobs.

While Ministers have ordered officials to return to their desks, Whitehall departments this month were putting up recruitment adverts saying office work will not resume any time soon. 

The Ministry of Defence, the Department of Health, Public Health England and the Food Standards Agency are among those advertising work from home only jobs. 

At the end of August, the Cabinet Secretary wrote to all Whitehall ministries setting a target to get 80 per cent of staff to attend their usual workplace each week by the end of September. 

Last week the Cabinet Secretary wrote to all Whitehall ministries setting a target to get 80 per cent of staff to attend their usual workplace each week by the end of September. 

Speakers at the first ever online TUC Congress today detailed a ‘litany of Government failures’, from a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) and decent sick pay, to concentrating more on the economy than a safe return to office working.

General secretary Frances O’Grady urged the Chancellor not to cut off support for jobs as the furlough scheme ends, otherwise she said there could be mass redundancies.

She said time was running out to prevent huge job losses, adding: ‘From this Thursday, it will be just 45 days before the job retention scheme ends.

‘That’s the notice period that companies have to give if they intend to make mass redundancies.’

It takes a whole community to beat a pandemic, she said, continuing: ‘It can’t just be done from Westminster corridors or company boardrooms.

‘Yet some in the Establishment behave as if there’s one rule for them, and another for everybody else.

Civil servants have been accused of making a ‘mockery’ of Boris Johnson’s (pictured today) push to get staff back into the office by advertising ‘work from home only’ jobs

‘Too often, ministers struggle to imagine lives that are unlike their own.

‘Like when the Prime Minister ordered a return to work, without a proper plan for public transport, and precious little thought about working mums and dads, and childcare.

‘Instead, a useless app, a mutant algorithm, and a half-baked test and trace system. Less ‘moonshot’, more moonshine.’

Liz Snape, of Unison, said the Government’s ‘neglect’ had worsened the crisis, while inequalities in society had been exposed.

The ‘litany’ of failures included a failure to provide PPE or proper funding to the Health and Safety Executive as well as the ‘crisis’ in testing, she said. 

A statement by the TUC’s general council said the public health crisis had exposed the depth of health inequalities in the UK, including along lines of class, race and gender.

It said: ‘The Government’s decision to delay implementing lockdown led to thousands of tragic, and unnecessary, deaths.

‘The failure to plan, prepare and deliver proper PPE supplies to the NHS and social care left frontline workers exposed.

‘The absence of an effective test and trace system and the scandal of patients being discharged from hospitals untested into care homes cost lives and livelihoods.

‘Too many women, black workers and disabled workers found that when they were issued PPE, it failed to fit properly and to provide adequate protection.’

The TUC is calling for an independent public inquiry into the crisis.

Source: Read Full Article